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Fresh Start #keto

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It’s been a long time since writing in the blog section, yet it only feels like last month (yikes!). I’ve been writing random things here for ~6 years now, the site has somewhat changed and so have I. Think of it more as a snapshot of my thinking at the time, rather than my current thinking.

When I started this blog, I had recently come into some money after having started a job at an automotive company. I had had some notion of starting a website for a while, in fact there are some dead sites that mostly went unmaintained that came before this - but their content I didn’t care too much about. I didn’t really have a direction for the content, but I knew as long as I updated it semi-regularly and noted down what I felt like at the time, it would build to something at least.

One of the questions I had to ask myself over the years is how much I would note here. It certainly doesn’t capture everything about my life, nor would I want it to, but I always wondered if I should sensor myself. One thing I wanted to make sure of is that whatever was put here was at least put there in honesty.

That brings us here today with a simple point: I’m overweight. If I don’t do something about it, my life expectancy is probabilistically less. Whilst I don’t have the most sought after life in the world, this one is mine, and I’ve become somewhat fond it. I’ve decided to take some actions to preserve it.


First Serious Attempt

Going back some time, in my late secondary school years I lost a significant amount of weight. Something like 8-10 stone in 6 months or so. I achieved it with brute force and ignorance. My mother always said “if you eat less than you use, you lose weight”. It is of course true. During this time I dropped down to 500 kcal a day, by the end sometimes 0 kcal a day. By the time I had finished, I measured at 10-12% body fat on a proper BMI test.

One thing I distinctly remember about this time was a young lady named Sophie who had herself struggled with weight asking me how I did it. My response to her was something like “you don’t want to know” - and this was the truth. I remember another time buying a pack of sugar free chewing gum as my food for the entire day. Whilst I had lost all of that weight, I think my parents were on the verge of calling a doctor. My skull was well pronounced and I didn’t need to breathe in for my ribs to stick out.

I had become obsessed with losing weight and looking back, I think I was anorexic. My father took me aside one time and said “if you don’t start eating, I’ll have to make you”. Whilst I rubbished his threat, I did take the other thing he said more seriously: “what is your goal weight?”. It was at that moment I realized that I had gone much further than my goal and slowly started eating again.

One thing I remember craving was Milky Bar chocolate (a popular white chocolate bar in the UK). I purchased a large bar, and with that the diet was concluded.

After some years later, my clothes began to get tighter and eventually I was again unable to wear them. Again I was overweight.

Second Serious Attempt

Between the first and second years of University, we went on a summer break. During this time I lived with my great grandmother (Iris) and she allowed me to cook using her kitchen. This was after my great grandfather (Theodore (“Bill”)) had died and it was a pleasure to keep her company. I remember she offered me my great grandfathers room to stay in rather than their smaller guest room, but I really didn’t like the idea of staying in the room he had died in.

During this time I decided to make another attempt at both dieting and exercising. It was tough. I knew what was to come. This time, as I had more control, I mostly ate bags of salad (£1) with either some heated pre-cooked chicken or some slices of ham in a mess tin. My great grandmother would say “we have plates you know!”, but the size of the mess tin was perfect for fitting half a bag of salad. A plate wasn’t nearly enough.

I estimated during those days I was eating perhaps 300 kcal a day whilst working out. It really pushed me and I almost broke a few times, but I did it. When I went back to University, people hardly recognized me.

One thing I remember was finding out that copious amounts of caffeine and sugar would dramatically increase my ability to work through the night, something that allowed me to finish some tight deadlines. After just a year, I had begun to put on some weight again, but was still in moderate shape.

Then I went to work at the automotive company and for the most part kept my weight normal. Every lunch I would buy a pot of salad. I remember one day one of the Karens working there told me off for consistently overfilling the salad bowl. We’re not talking crazy amounts, but the lid wouldn’t close. My thinking then was “fuck you, I’ll take my money elsewhere” - and so I did. The company had a small restaurant but they only sold the worst of foods - there was not really any other viable places to eat in this industrial area. Towards the end of working there, I had put on more weight and my clothes no longer fit.

Other Attempts

Since then I have tried multiple diets, which have all failed. These were previously all the same type of diet, where I would simply look to lower calories. I have been vaguely aware that carbohydrates work against you for quite some time now, but I was also trying to lower fat. If you remove sugar, fat, carbohydrates and calories, that doesn’t leave you with much. These diets were always doomed to fail in retrospect.

It wasn’t a lack of willpower either. I would really try to stick these out, all of them were for a month or more - outside of the initial quitting time. The reason they always were brought to an end was the lack of brain energy. I can handle the lack of physical energy, but being in academia means I need access to my brain. Not being able to think clearly for 6 months or more simply wasn’t an option.

Why Now?

I recently has a visa medical check-up. When I first came to New Zealand I was very worried about this, I weighed about 23 stone. When I had my test back then, my blood iron levels were awful and I had to get retested. The report said I had grade A health, but really needed to act now to prevent any negative long-term health affects.

I’ve now been in New Zealand for more than 3 years and some things have changed. I now weigh 25 stone. My blood pressure is still within acceptable levels (thanks to some low-blood pressure genetics), but again the doctor asked if I had taken steps to reduce it, again emphasising my dwindling mortality.

At this point I had mostly cut out refined sugars after buying a take-out and realizing I only really purchased it for the sugary drink. This was an unconscious thing - I literally purchased some pizzas and put them to one side because I wasn’t hungry. What was my “what the actual fuck” moment. With this and what the doctor said to me, I thought that it’s time to step up my game.

What Next?

I’m doing the keto diet. It mostly compliments my previously proven method of reducing sugars and carbohydrates, but it doesn’t decrease fat - it increases it. The idea is that you get your body burning almost entirely fats for energy instead of other stuff. There is a high amount of protein in there, but not as much as you might think.

People say “you don’t feel hungry” which I imagine is true, but I hear many people get worn out more easily. I suspect the deal is that you can’t exceed your body’s ability to convert fat into energy.

As a large person, I have a lot of fat that can be easily accessed, so in theory I can produce a lot of energy as long as my organs can process it. I’m technically in my “prime”, so my body has the best shot at figuring it out.

I’ll try and keep this up-to-date using the #keto tag, especially noting the key points. One that may occur is the “keto flu”, the point where the human body asks “what the hell are you doing?!”.

Part of this is also to keep myself accountable. I remember an old friend of mine documented his process on YouTube, but I also remember that he stopped updating - so I guess it didn’t go well.

Hopefully you won’t see the same from myself - I both want and need this to happen successfully. I have a large meeting of friends and family coming up in June, I really want to present my best self to them. I don’t want to look into their eyes and see concern or shame. After this the next stage of my life starts, going from academia to career and I want to put my best foot forward. Don’t wish me luck, wish me perseverance.